Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why I don't attend holiday parties and formals (and what I would change)

From SpouseBuzz

 I enjoy parties. I try to regularly host people at my house for Thanksgiving, Christmas and a bunch of other events throughout the year. I enjoy dancing (whether I'm good at it or not remains another matter) and hanging out with friends. But the last few years, I've stopped going to holiday parties and most formal events.

My boss recently asked me why I didn't go to our command's holiday party. I gave her a short answer, but it actually merits its own post. So, here are my reasons:

1. The music sucks. 

Seriously, it does. When I was in high school, we played about 10 minutes of what I called "fast dancing" music: rock, rap, hip-hop, country. A good mix. Then, for 5-6 minutes (i.e. about 2 songs) we played "slow dancing" music. For the people without dates, they left and went to the bathroom. For the couples, we went out and got to slow dance with our partner. The mix appealed to everyone, and the DJ at my wedding (who is a friend from high school) did almost the same thing, which kept people at our wedding reception until we got kicked out of the place.

Today, there is nothing played but rap, hip-hop and R&B. I am not a hip-hop hater, since I have plenty of rap and hip-hop in my workout Pandora stations. But that is ALL that is played. Most DJs don't take requests, and when they do, they scoff (openly) at my request for a slower song once in a while. I'm not old enough to be a "fuddy duddy," and even if I was, guess what? I paid to come here, and I'd like to occasionally enjoy what is played.

The excuse is that this is what the "young Sailors" want. BS. I see lots of those same "young Sailors" leave early, and music is cited as a top reason. No, it's what a certain segment of the population wants, and while I have no problem indulging them, it is inherently unfair to those of us that would like something different played to tell us to put up with it.

2. The dress code feels like middle school.

And I don't mean the military members. What happened to dressing up for occasions? I see men showing up in jeans and a T-shirt. JEANS! For a holiday party, put on a pair of dress pants and a collared shirt. It's not hard. You could even rock a tie once in a while, or even a bow tie if you want some real swagger.

As for women, wow. At our last command's Navy Day Ball, it was like I was in a bad prom movie. Most of it was because women wore dresses that were too small for their size, so they were "popping out" in all the wrong places. I had one lady with a slit up the center of her dress going almost to her crotch, making my cringe. The goal at a formal isn't to be "that girl" that everyone talks about afterwards.

Don't tell me clothing is expensive. It's not. Besides the great deals at the NEX, you can get good looking clothes for less than the cost of a dinner out:

Men's Pants:

Women's Dresses:

Good fit guides are available for men and for women.

3. The food sucks.

I will pay good money for good food. But if I'm paying 60 dollars per ticket, the food better be good. The Marriott in Augusta (where our Navy Day Ball was at) had terrible food that I wouldn't have paid 10 dollars for.

4. The event is timed too soon after work.

If my boss dumps a ton of work on me the day of a formal event, and I don't finish it before leaving, guess what I'm thinking about while at a formal? I probably won't get back in time, and I'll be rushing my spouse to get ready (and that is a no-win situation).

5. Childcare is lacking.

I know it doesn't matter to the childless people, but if I have to hunt for childcare, it makes me automatically inclined to not go.

It was not always like this. The holiday parties and get-togethers put on when I was at Second Fleet were well done and thought out. If you're a party planner, here's what you should be doing:

1. Interview the DJ.

Seems dumb, but if you're paying for a DJ, you should interview him/her. Ask them what songs they are playing. I recommend having a set song list for the first hour. Most DJs won't like this, and if they balk, don't hire them. Seriously. If you have crummy music in the first hour after dinner, you will lose most of your people and they will NOT come back next year. Poll your Sailors for songs and put together a one hour list that has groupings of 3-4 fast songs followed by 1-2 slow songs. Also, please START with a slow song. It's way easier to get people on the dance floor that way.

2. Put out dress code guidance to military and spouses.

Most young men and women don't know how to dress, as reflected by showing up to church, formals and job interviews in jeans. So be the adult and put out guidance. It doesn't have to be boring. Spice it up a bit. Make it a funny 1-2 page document with photos, or direct people online. Ask the local NEX if they will do dress and suit sizings for spouses and advertise it. Make it easy for people to show up looking good.

As for the debate about whether military women can wear dresses, the best response came from my time at NROTC. My CO said female midshipmen can wear dresses, and male midshipmen can wear tuxedos if they like. No guys bothered renting a tuxedo. Is it unfair? Well, until the Navy designs a female formal uniform that was designed to look good, I would say I don't really care.

3. Try the food before. Cater if needed.

Most places let you sample food before. Do it. Take a few Sailors with you (who would turn down free food?). If the general consensus is 'meh,' don't serve it. While you don't have to have filet Mignon, have something on the plate worth eating. It will keep people happy and they will talk about it next year.

4. Ask bosses to cut people out early.

Sounds silly, but make it so people can take the time at home to get ready. Get the boss to go home so the tasking stops. Better yet, get the bosses wife/husband to get them to come home early. You don't want stressed-out people showing up, starting the evening off wrong.

5. Provide childcare, rides, hotels, photos, and a mixer.

People will ask what sort of deal they are getting, but everyone values something different. Providing childcare (typically on-site) brings in families. Rides home/discounted hotel rooms let's people drink without worrying about a DUI. Photos make it memorable for next year.

The one thing people miss is a mixer. When you first show up you need to get people mingling. At one event, everyone got a colored card. To get a free raffle entry, you had to get ten people with cards of not the same color to sign your card. The colors were scattered around, so you had to move around the room and talk to others. It gave everyone something lighthearted to do so that they weren't bored.

Formal events should be fun, and they can be if the proper thought is put into them. If you have to plan one, make it a good time for everyone so that you never have a problem selling your tickets.